A Human-Machine Interface (HMI) is a user interface or dashboard that connects a person to a machine, system, or device. While the term can technically be applied to any screen that allows a user to interact with a device, HMI is most commonly used in the context of an industrial process.
Although HMI is the most common term for this technology, it is sometimes referred to as Man-Machine Interface (MMI), Operator Interface Terminal (OIT), Local Operator Interface (LOI), or Operator Terminal (OT). HMI and Graphical User Interface (GUI) are similar but not synonymous: GUIs are often leveraged within HMIs for visualization capabilities.
In industrial settings, HMIs can be used to:
Visually display data
Track production time, trends, and tags
Monitor machine inputs and outputs
Similar to how you would interact with your air-conditioning system to check and control the temperature in your house, a plant-floor operator might use an HMI to check and control the temperature of an industrial water tank, or to see if a certain pump in the facility is currently running.
HMIs come in a variety of forms, from built-in screens on machines, to computer monitors, to tablets, but regardless of their format or which term you use to refer to them, their purpose is to provide insight into mechanical performance and progress.